Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tuolumne Meadows

Everything always looks better in the morning.

I woke up to a damp tent in my little stealth camp near the church in Mammoth. I packed it up wet and went to the Looney Bean for a muffin and tea. Then I went to the bus stop to wait for the bus to Tuolumne Meadows. The ride up to TM was smooth and easy. When I got there I did not know what to do with myself. I decided I would go to the campground and set up my stuff and somehow try to wait out the day. The campground was closed. It was way to early in the season, it seemed.

So I started walking up the trail, southbound. I figured I would take a look up the Lyell Canyon and maybe sleep there for the night. Along the way I came to a sign with a map of all the trails in the area. I stopped there and unfurled my tent to dry in the sun while I took a look at the map.

It looked like I could make a loop of about 20 miles or so if I went up to a place called Vogelsang and followed Rafferty Creek. This seemed like a good way to get a sense of the snow conditions around here. AFter my stuff was dry, I set off. I felt good, happy to be making some forward movement and hiking again.

I passed a couple laboring under their loads. I met up with a man hiking with the biggest backpack I've ever seen. He even had a blue and white speckled soup pot big enough to make soup for 8 people. He was hiking with his young daughter who wore the coolest hiking outfit ever: pink flowered skirt, pink stripped leggings, pink and orange top and carrying a leopard print stuffed animal purse. I complimented her on her outfit.

Onward I went. I promised myself I would turn around as soon as the trail became difficult to follow. Having no map or compass I didn't want to do anything stupid.

I reached a junction and took the trail to Vogelsang. The trail had become snowy already and I had been following tracks, but on the trail to Vogelsang there were no more prints to follow. Soon the trail became completely snowbound and I could not follow. I could not see the trail on the other side of the snow and the snow was a steep angle I could not walk. I turned back to the junction.

The junction pointed 21.5 miles to Yosemite Valley. I thought maybe I would go ahead and go that way. It would be lower. I followed footprints in the snow as the trail descended quickly. I passed Both Lake, wich was pretty, and a number of smaller ponds, one of which and a duck swimming in it. Oddly, the snow only got worse the lower I went.

I was following recent footprints but as soon as I came to a spot where the footprints seemed like they were having trouble finding the trail, I grew worried and decided to turn back. On the way back, I saw the couple I had seen earlier and they were going to continue. At this point, it had started to precipitate some kind of strange, snow-like objects. Small round pellets but it was not hail. I wore my umbrella and had my rain chaps on and my Subway sandwich bags on my arms.

I felt defeated as I worked my way back to Tuolumne Meadows. It seemed I was about a month too early to be here. I could not think of anything I could do to salvage my hike. I walked back to TM certain it was time to end my quest and go home and try to move on from the PCT.

On the way down I met up with a man with another huge pack. Once you get off the PCT the backpacks people carry are completely absurd. Mine may be small, but I have everything I need to be warm, safe and dry (and in fact, as I write this on the 21st of June after enduring hardships like you would not believe, I have never not been warm, safe and dry). I am much safer with a very light load as I am not unstable on my feet and I'm not laboring. Anyway, I spoke to the man for a while and he told me that a high pressure system was headed our way by the end of the week, possibly Thursday. Perhaps there was hope for my trip after all. All I had to do now was figure out what to do with myself for the next four days.

I made a stealth camp that was hopfully outside the 4.5 mile line where you aren't allowed to camp. You're not supposed to camp within 4.5 miles of the highway. It was still pretty early, maybe 5:30, but I had a pretty spot. I even had my own private waterfall. I hped the bears would leave me alone.

I took off my set shoes and socks and my wet legs of my pants. I hoped I would be warm enough sleeping in shorts and leg warmers. I made a hot meal and prepared to sleep.

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